Creating stunning photographs of a building and its interior can prove to be challenging, which is why we have compiled the following list of architectural photography tips for aspiring architectural photographers.
Planning The Shoot
One of the great advantages when photographing architecture is that the static nature of this type of photography allows the photographer a lot of time to really plan and stage each shot. However, before commencing on the actual shoot, it is a good idea to do some research about the building and the features that are most important to accentuate.
When deciding on a time to do the shoot, keep in mind that the sun moves from the east to the west during the day. You need to pick a time when the angle of the sun and the resulting shadows cast will complement the shape of the building.
One of the architectural photography tips to remember is to shoot either during the hour just after sunrise and before sunset. The sun’s light will be less sharp and create a rich, golden glow. Another advantage of shooting at this time of day is that you could also get some night shots in, so you will have a more varied series of photographs.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast for the day of the planned shoot. Rain might thwart your plans, but some clouds can add mood and a sense of movement to the image.
Best Gear For Architectural Photography
• Wide angle lenses are best for photographing architecture as these help to create dramatic compositions.
• A fish eye lens is helpful if you can’t get enough distance between you and the building to get everything in the shot.
• A slight telephoto lens will help to isolate certain architectural elements of the building.
• Using a tripod is a must in architectural photography, especially at night or low light conditions.
• A UV filter is always handy to have and a polariser will create a more vivid contrast between the blue skies and white clouds.
• An ND filter is great for interior shots.
• It is very helpful to have post processing software capable of decreasing distortion, stitching images together or combining shots done at different exposures.
Camera Settings Specific To The Architecture Photo
In architectural photography the focus is on lines and detail, which is why you want to get your images as sharp as possible. This means shooting at a small aperture to increase the depth of field. For many lenses, the best sharpness is achieved at an aperture setting of around f/13 or 16. You also don’t want any noise in the image, so set your ISO lower than 200.
As you are using a tripod and compensating with a slower shutter speed, this should not affect the amount of light in the image. Shooting in the RAW-format will give you more freedom in post processing, allowing you to change the exposure settings, white balance, sharpness and other parameters.
Composition And The Role Of Lighting
An architecture photo that is clean and uncluttered will create the greatest impact, which is why it is important to try and avoid any distracting elements when composing the shot.
Play around with repetitive elements such as patterns, shapes and lines for a more dynamic image. Tilting the camera or doing a diagonal shot can also create an interesting look.
If you decide on a strong symmetrical approach (which is often necessary when doing the more formal shots), ensure that all vertical and horizontal lines are balanced and straight.
One of the most important architectural photography tips is to always consider the lighting in each shot. Light interacts with the structure, giving depth and creating contrast. Watch the direction of the light, how it influences reflections and shadows.
High light/shadow contrast can fool your camera to expose the scene incorrectly, so you will need to apply exposure compensation in some cases. A trick often applied to night photography is to bracket the shots with different exposures (one for the shadows, one for midtones and one for highlights) in order to merge them together later during post processing.
Avoiding Distortion When Photographing Architecture
When shooting architectural structures from close up using a wide angle lens, it will seem as if the sides lean in toward the top. You may also have to deal with barrel distortion.
Stepping back to include more of the building or shooting at a moderate focal length may help reduce this phenomenon. Vertical lines should be kept vertical in an architecture photo if you want to maintain a realistic effect.
Architectural Photography Tips When Shooting Indoors
Architecture photography is not limited to the exterior of a building and shooting indoors comes with its own series of challenges. Achieving the correct white balance in an indoor setting is not always easy, especially if you have to rely on artificial lighting. Remember to always compensate the white balance using the menu on the camera itself or use a grey card to take a reading.
Try to make use of natural light as much as possible and use an ND filter to keep the highlights from being too bright when shooting during the day. You may have to use a diffused flash or other supplementary lighting, but keep in mind that this may come at the cost of sacrificing atmosphere.
These are just some of the tips and tricks that architectural photographers will likely use to get you the best architectural photo results. They are experts in what they do, and like many professionals in their specific field of expertise, they will probably make it look easy. But don’t underestimate the work that has gone into getting you the best photos.